In June, about 235 genetically selected hogs will be flown from Chicago to South Korea to start rebuilding the swine herd there that has been decimated by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Assuring that the pigs arrive safely is the task of Tony Clayton, president of Clayton Agri-Marketing Inc., a Jefferson City, MO-based animal shipping business.
“The pigs travel really well. They have enough room to lay down, enough room to walk and get water. They travel better than some people in economy class,” Clayton says.

Three 747s filled with hogs will fly to South Korea in June and more will follow in a rebuilding process that is expected to take years to replace the estimated 35% of that country’s herd that was destroyed.

South Korea is the fourth-largest market for U.S. pork. It banned live hog imports in late 2010 as it battled to contain FMD. The ban has since been relaxed, and Clayton’s shipments will be the first this year.

Clayton ships live hogs and cattle to Vietnam and Mexico, and other countries, and says the animals seldom die.

In 2010, the United States exported about 89,146 cattle and 24,207 hogs.

Clayton’s shipments must go through security and quarantine for about 30 days in South Korea, to ensure the pigs are healthy.

The hogs will establish the genetic traits the South Korean customers want and will be the great-grandparents and grandparents of progenies raised for meat production.

“Right now their main emphasis is on pork because that is going to be their top consumed protein,” Clayton says.

South Korea may import up to 50,000 hogs from the United States, Canada and Europe over the next few years during the rebuilding process.

Clayton expects now that China has lifted its two-year ban on U.S. hogs and pork that the country will become the best customer for U.S. hogs. He estimates China could buy 10,000 breeding hogs a year for the next couple of years.

But the process will take time as U.S. producers work to produce the hogs that China wants.